Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Fred Warner’s attitude changes when he steps onto the football field

Aug 27, 2020 at 8:22 AM--

Fred Warner is a force on the football field, chasing down running backs, tight ends, and even receivers while making their game days increasingly more difficult. Off the football field, the San Francisco 49ers linebacker is one of the kindest and most accommodating players you will meet.

The change of attitude was on full display Wednesday when a feisty Warner started getting into it with his teammate and friend, running back Raheem Mostert. The two twice bumped chests in a fired-up confrontation.

Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes that Warner was also involved in a play that saw the linebacker "blast" rookie tight end Charlie Woerner after a pass across the middle during 11-on-11 drills.

Defensive teammate, Jimmie Ward, was asked about Warner's ability to turn his fiery attitude on and off, and if it may, at times, create some conflict with his teammates.

"I call him All-Pro Fred," Ward responded. "It's just his whole demeanor. When he steps on the field, he wants to be the best guy out there, and I feel like that's what everybody wants to do. It's just iron sharpens iron.

"Them guys (Warner and Mostert), they're great friends off the football field. But when you're on the football field, Raheem, he wants to score, and Fred, he doesn't want him to score. He doesn't want him to get any yards after contact. Both of them just doing their job."

Reporters also asked defensive coordinator Robert Saleh about Warner's ability to transform himself when he steps onto the football field.

"Most of these players, even his linebackers coach DeMeco (Ryans), when they put the helmet on, and they step in between the white lines, they become, not a different person, but there's a different mindset and especially at the linebacker position," Saleh explained. "You can be a gentleman off the field, very smart, very intellectual, very candid, very polite, just like Fred, and Kwon (Alexander) is, too.

"You really have a good, genuine conversation with them, but when that helmet goes on, as a linebacker, and really as a defensive player or just a football player in general, and you step in between the white lines, there's a trigger, mentally, that puts you into a different mindset with regards to physicality and presence."

Pro Football Focus recently ranked Warner as the No. 11 linebacker in the NFL, so the 49ers defender is starting to get the recognition he deserves. Warner racked up a team-leading 118 tackles while contributing three sacks, an interception, nine passes defensed, and three forced fumbles last season.

All-Pro tight end George Kittle has noticed Warner's improvement since entering the league in 2018.

"He's an incredible linebacker," Kittle said this week. "He was, in my opinion, a Pro Bowl linebacker last year, and I think he's going to be better this year. Just being able to play against him every day makes me a better tight end. It's just really fun to have someone like that on your team."

Warner has not been named to a Pro Bowl, nor has he earned All-Pro honors, as Ward's moniker might indicate, but Saleh loves how far the young linebacker has come in such a short timeframe. Those league honors are likely in his future.

"Fred, I guess you could say the more he grows up or the more he evolves as a football player, the more confidence he gets from a leadership standpoint," Saleh continued. "His true character, when the helmet comes on, comes to fruition, and that's kind of what you guys are seeing.

"Every day is game day for those guys, and they treat it like it is. It's cool to see. You don't want them to get in too many scuffles because you've got to get back to the huddle and make the call, but it's better to say, 'Whoa, then giddy up,' in terms of those guys."

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